Funded by the HE Academy's NTFS project strand, this project aimed to confront a fundamental issue for every HE course/programme leader: how to design an effective, efficient, inclusive and sustainable assessment strategy which delivers the key course/programme outcomes.
The original project team included 5 National Teaching Fellows from 6 universities (including 2 assessment-focused Centres of Excellence for Teaching & Learning (CETLs): ASKe and Assessment for Learning). The geographic location of team members presented several challenges; however, we made extensive use of virtual meeting places for our team meetings and limited our face to face project meetings to just 5 over the course of the project.
Focusing on programme level assessment, the project sought to redress the current imbalance where assessment issues are primarily investigated and discussed at module/unit level by providing evidence-based guidance and exemplars/examples to help programme leaders develop and implement effective programme focused assessment strategies. Our position paper (pdf) sets out the case for Programme Focused Assessment and our progress through the project is outlined on the Project Overview/Reports page.
Our original plan was to have one year of development and investigation and two years of implementation. However, our first round of work packages found so little evidence of Programme Focused Assessment that we had two years of development and investigation and one year plus of implementation. We were pleased that the Higher Education Academy granted a short extension to the project.
It became evident from work on the initial work packages that we needed to define what we meant by Programme Focused Assessment. After much debate, and based on the examples emerging, the project team determined four key types of programme focused assessment, each with its own variants.
The project aimed to deliver four key things:
Despite a slow start we are pleased to have gathered case studies reflecting most of our defined types and variants, "Submission of personal evidence against programme learning outcomes". Our original intention was to provide a series of "Choice & Consequence" guides; however, with so little evidence emerging, we have combined this into one short guide. Further resources provide institutional perspectives relating to programme focused assessment. The project has focused on case studies from the UK; however, a number of potentially interesting examples from overseas have emerged.
Chris Rust developed and piloted a workshop at the University of Bradford in March 2012. The workshop has since been delivered by members of the programme team to a further 12 HE institutions.
Drawing on Chris Rust's research, the Assessment Issues (pdf) document produced in the first round of work packages provided a checklist for all of our other work, ie which issues did it address and how?
The interest in different forms and patterns of assessment has grown during the project but not quickly enough for us to identify the range of practice that we anticipated in the original plan; therefore, opportunities for evaluating the impact on staff and students were limited within the timescales of the project. Our case studies endeavour to capture potential impact; however, there is much scope for further evaluation for which a final work package has been approved by the HE Academy and will be reported on in June 2013.
Members of the programme team have provided papers at a number of dissemination events. A particular highlight was our final event at which a number of assessment focused projects and higher education agencies were represented. The event had an explicit 'forward-looking' theme giving the 60 participants an opportunity to discuss and debate common issues and share important developments emerging from the various projects.
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University of Bradford, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD7 1DP, UK